TitleAnnual Early Medieval Europe Lecture: Gardens and Gardening in Early Medieval Spain and Portugal (Language: English)
Date/TimeMonday 3 July 2017: 19.00-20.00
SponsorEarly Medieval Europe
SpeakerWendy Davies, Faculty of History, University of Oxford
IntroductionMarios Costambeys, Department of History, University of Liverpool
Simon MacLean, School of History, University of St Andrews
AbstractAlthough we may have an image of flowers and perfumes adorning the palaces of Andalusi Spain, gardens do not come so quickly to mind when we think about the North in the early Middle Ages. Yet northern Iberian charters often detail transactions in gardens - differentiated from arable land - and recent macro-botanical work throws some light on what was cultivated.

The Iberian peninsula is a large landmass, and it has a wide diversity of landscapes, from mountains and high plateaux to coastal lowlands and rolling forests. There is also great climatic diversity: the South has a much higher mean temperature than the centre or North, and there is great variation in rainfall, from the wet North West to the dry South East. In the early Middle Ages there was cultural diversity too: invasion of the Visigothic state by Muslim groups in the early 8th century brought Berbers and Arabs. Muslim rule was in the long run challenged by the Christian kingdoms of the North, but throughout the ups and downs of political change people occupied the landscape and worked the land. All of this makes it particularly interesting to investigate how far this land's inhabitants managed the physical space around their homes and how far they supplemented staple foods with more personal produce.

There are many things to explore: when archaeologists designate areas of excavated settlements as gardens, what kinds of garden do they have in mind - decorative, or productive, or just somewhere to store tools? Is it reasonable to classify such spaces as 'gardens' at all? When 9th- and 10th-century northern texts specify gardens, do they differentiate garden from orchard and from vineyard? And, given the number of fruit trees named, did the redactors recognize any difference between garden and orchard? Although Arabic texts describe wonderful gardens in the South, how many of these texts include descriptions borrowed from writing elsewhere in the Arabic world? And, in the end, for North and South, what was grown? Were gardens significant contributors to domestic food production?

The journal Early Medieval Europe is pleased to sponsor its annual lecture at the International Medieval Congress in order to highlight the importance of the Congress to scholars working in early medieval European history and to support further research in this field. Early Medieval Europe is an interdisciplinary journal that covers Europe in its entirety, including material on Iceland, the British Isles, Scandinavia, and continental Europe. Further information about the journal and details on how to submit material to it are available at All those attending are warmly invited to join members of the editorial board after the lecture for a glass of wine.

Please note that admission to this event will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Please ensure that you arrive as early as possible to avoid disappointment.